Islam Slimani

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Algeria’s Mahrez, Senegal’s Mane meet in Africa Cup of Nations final

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A fascinating matchup between two Premier League stars will take place Friday as the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations comes to a conclusion. Riyad Mahrez and Algeria meet Sadio Mane and Senegal for a second time in the competition, this one for all the glory.

Senegal may be the favorite given their superior FIFA ranking, but the 22nd ranked nation in the world hasn’t looked its best despite being one of the final two teams remaining in the competition. They finished second to Algeria in Group C play thanks more to its organized defense than its highly-touted attack which has taken too long to get going too often.

Algeria, meanwhile, is considered a worthy opponent despite their FIFA ranking of 68. Riyad Mahrez has been electric in the knockout stages, and while his finishing up front has left a little to be desired, his creativity is providing his nation with the chances it needs to secure upsets. Mahrez scored in the 3-0 win over fellow surprise Benin in the quarterfinals, and again found the back of the net in dramatic fashion to beat Nigeria late in the semis.

Not only is Algeria in better form coming in, but they have the rub of the grain as well. Star Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly will harshly miss the final due to a yellow card suspension, as the Africa Cup of Nations is one of the few tournaments that still does not wipe yellow card accumulation after the quarterfinal. His third yellow of the tournament came in the semifinal when a vicious shot struck his elbow, awarding Tunisia a penalty which they subsequently missed.

While the goals haven’t necessarily flowed for either side in this tournament, they both have significant attacking firepower when on. Behind Mahrez for Algeria is Napoli’s Adam Ounas who also has three goals in the competition, one off the lead, while Leicester City frontman Islam Slimani patrols in the middle. For Senegal, Manee is backed up by Stade Rennes youngster Ismaila Sarr who directly contributed to 15 goals last Ligue 1 season and had a goal and assist against Kenya in the group stage.

The matchup between two defensively stout attacking threats should prove to be a thriller, especially considering the semifinal nailbiters from which they advanced.

Africa Cup of Nations last 16 preview: Salah, Mane on collision course?

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The group stage of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations has been low-scoring, so we’ll be hoping for some early goals to open up play for the many electric stars of Africa.

That doesn’t mean we haven’t seen the big names find the score sheet, as Mohamed Salah of Liverpool and host nation Egypt has two goals — as many as anyone in the tournament — the same amount as club teammate Sadio Mane.

[ MORE: JPW’s Round of 16 predictions ]

The Reds may be on a collision course for Cairo on July 19, with Senegal the 22nd ranked team in the world via FIFA and Egypt hosting the tournament.

All five of the nations to qualify for the 2018 World Cup remain alive, with three in the top of the bracket and two in the bottom.

The 32nd edition of the competition could see a rematch of the 31st final in the quarterfinals, but it will require Cameroon emerging from a massive Round of 16 meeting with Nigeria.

Should they do so, and the hosts beat South Africa, the rematch will arrive on Wednesday in Cairo.

The Cameroon-Nigeria match may be topped by one in the upper half of the bracket, as Ghana looks to reassert itself as a power by knocking of Tunisia. The Black Stars missed out on the 2018 World Cup, and the winner is arguably a favorite to reach the final.

Premier League talents on show

Senegal – Mane (Liverpool), Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace)

Morocco – Romain Saiss (Wolves)

Democratic Republic of Congo – Arthur Masuaku (West Ham)

Ghana – Christian Atsu (Newcastle), Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace)

Mali – Moussa Djenepo (Southampton)

Ivory Coast – Serge Aurier (Spurs), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Jonathan Kodija (Aston Villa)

Algeria – Riyad Mahrez (Man City), Islam Slimani (Leicester)

Guinea – Naby Keita (Liverpool)

Nigeria – Leon Balogun (Brighton), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester), Henry Onyekuru (Everton).

Cameroon – Gaetan Bong (Brighton),

Egypt – Salah (Liverpool), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa)

Round of 16 schedule

Uganda v. Senegal – July 5
Morocco v. Benin – July 5

Madagascar v. Democratic Republic of Congo – July 7
Ghana v. Tunisia – July 8

Mali v. Ivory Coast – July 8
Algeria v. Guinea – July 7

Nigeria v. Cameroon – July 6
Egypt v. South Africa – July 6

AFCON wrap: Mane brace, Zaha goal help favorites Senegal and Ivory Coast to victory

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It was a great day to be a favorite in the Africa Cup of Nations on Monday, as all four countries expected to move on clinched berths in the knockout stage.

In the early pair of kickoffs, Ivory Coast stormed Namibia 4-1 while Morocco needed a late goal to top South Africa 1-0. The late kicks saw Algeria blitz Tanzania 3-0 with a strong first half and Senegal topped Kenya 2-0.

Wilfried Zaha got his first goal of the tournament in the win for the Ivory Coast, sealing the game with a low line drive in the 84th minute to make it 3-1 before Maxwel Cornet finished off the scoring five minutes later. Former Bournemouth winger Max Gradel opened the scoring 39 minutes in with a blast from a tight angle with the only goal of the first half, while Basel midfielder Serey Die put them 2-0 up near the hour mark. Namibia made it 2-1 with 19 minutes to go but Zaha’s goal finished off the game.

While that saw the Ivory Coast seal a knockout spot, Morocco got a late goal to pip South Africa, earning the top spot in Group D and dooming South Africa to a perilous position among the third-place table. M’bark Boussoufa scored the all-important goal in the 90th minute, poking home amid a scrum on a free-kick delivered into the box from the left flank.

In Group C action, Algeria made it three wins in three after a trio of first-half goals eased them through past Tanzania, eliminating the minnows in just their second-ever tournament. Leicester City striker Islam Slimani opened the scoring in the 34th minute, and Algeria got a brace from young Napoli winger Adam Ounas to put them up big at the break. Slimani’s came on a brilliant long-ball over the top from Ounas who split the center-backs perfectly and allowed the Foxes striker to finish it off cooly past Metacha Mnata. Ounas scored his first five minutes later on a fabulous one-two with Slimani, while his second and Algeria’s third found the back of the net with the last kick of the game on the break as Ounas whizzed past Tanzania defender Mohamed Husseini before rounding Mnata with a touch from his right.

With Algeria on top, Senegal finished second by taking down Kenya 3-0 behind a brace from Sadio Mane. After a scoreless first half that saw Mane miss from the penalty spot, Stade Rennais youngster Ismaila Sarr put Senegal ahead with a wonderful volley after Kenya goalkeeper Patrick Matasi whiffed on a cross and left the goal gaping. With the 1-0 lead and a half-hour to go, Mane took control and grabbed his first by latching onto a blasted clearance by Lamine Gassama who just booted the ball out into the attacking half where just Mane was patrolling, and he raced right between the pair of defenders for a fastbreak finish. He grabbed his second on a penalty in the 78th minute, making amends for earlier by burying his spot-kick in the low right-hand corner, and while Matasi guessed right he came up just short.

At this stage in the competition, there is just one more round of games tomorrow before the knockout stage is set. Teams confirmed through via the group stage are Egypt, Uganda, Madagascar, Nigeria, Algeria, Senegal, Morocco, and Ivory Coast while Guinea and Democratic Republic of Congo are both already assured of a spot via the third-place table. Groups E and F will wrap up on Tuesday as Mali and Cameroon are in the pole positions with Tunisia, Angola, Mauritania, Ghana, Benin, and Guinea-Bissau all in the hunt.

FOLLOW LIVE: Morocco, Senegal, Algeria all in Africa Cup of Nations action

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With the tournament now in full swing with both its official and complete openings in the rear view mirror, Groups C and Dnow takes the field as Morocco has an early tilt with Namibia before Senegal meets Tanzania and Algeria takes on Kenya.

[ LIVE: Africa Cup of Nations scores ]

First up is the Group D match with a wildly talented Moroccan side listed as one of the tournament favorites. The starting lineup features well-known players such as Hakim Ziyech of Ajax and Roman Saiss of Wolves, plus 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund talent Achraf Hakimi along the back line. They take on a Namibian side of mostly domestic players, although their squad does sport defender Ryan Nyambe of Blackburn Rovers.

Later in the afternoon, a Senegal side bursting with European talent takes on Tanzania, with Sadio Mane ready to captain his country after winning the Champions League with Liverpool a few weeks ago. The squad also sports Everton’s Idrissa Gueye, Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, and Inter striker Keita Balde. Tanzania is captained by Genk striker Mbwana Samatta who scored a stunning 20 goals in 28 Belgian league matches last season plus another 12 in all other competitions.

Finally, the late kick features Algeria, fronted by Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez and Leicester City striker Islam Slimani, matches up with Kenya.

Premier League friendlies: Saints undone by Lampard’s Rams

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Nine Premier League clubs were in action Saturday, none of them at home.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

An ex-PL star, however, thrilled his home fans in a Pride Park debut, facing top flight competition.


Derby County 3-0 Southampton

Frank Lampard is the new Rams’ boss, and his first home match was a win over Premier League competition.

“Lamps” got two goals from Tom Lawrence, and another from Mason Bennett as Saints fell by three. It was Southampton’s first match since returning from a China trip which saw a draw with Schalke and a defeat of Jiangu Suning.

Notts County 1-4 Leicester City

The visitors went down 1-0 before rebounding with vigor to hammer the Magpies behind four different scorers: Demarai Gray, Wes Morgan, Islam Slimani, and Hamza Choudhury.

AFC Wimbledon 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

The Gulls slipped to defeat, going down two before Ollie Norwood converted an Aaron Connelly-won penalty

Oxford United 1-3 Crystal Palace

Wilfried Zaha, Jeffrey Schlupp and Sullay Kaikai scored as Roy Hodgson‘s men collected an easy enough win away from home.

Real Betis 2-0 Huddersfield Town /  Roy-Weiss Essen 1-0 Huddersfield Town

The Terriers lost a pair of 45-minute friendlies in Belgium.

Elsewhere

Lille 0-0 (4-2, PKs) Everton
Lyon 4-0 Fulham
Fortuna Dusseldorf 1-3 Watford
Preston North End 2-2 West Ham United